How to Conduct An Effective Virtual Meeting

work-from-home

4.7 million people work from home in the United States [source]. The need for collaboration and meeting with co-workers does not go away when people transition to working from home, so it is no surprise that products like Zoom Meeting have realized huge growth.

The recent Coronavirus spread is creating challenges for sales teams that did not need to make this transition to meeting virtually until now. My anticipation is that the number of people that work from home will be drastically increased for the long-term once we get back to normal.

Virtual or not, We have all been in our share of meetings that were good, productive meetings and others that were a waste of time for all involved. So, ensuring that you can effectively conduct a meeting is critical in business continuity during these times.

The 3 keys to having quality virtual meetings are:

  1. Planning
  2. Use of tools and technologies
  3. Engagement techniques

Here are some helpful tips for each of the three areas:

Planning

Failing to plan is planning to fail. The nature of virtual meetings makes planning even more important. Here are some specific things you can do to plan for a fantastic meeting:

  • Prepare an agenda, and stick to it: Your agenda should include items that you would be able to cover given the time allotted. Send the agenda out to all participants prior. One good practice is to present each topic as a question. If the topic does not answer a question, then you may want to consider the relevance of the topic.
  • Prepare questions: More on engagement later, but the last thing virtual meeting participants want is a lecture. Asking the right questions in a meeting promotes healthy thinking. Asking the low-value questions compromises the integrity of the message. Prepare high-value questions that generate thought and support the intended message.
  • Prepare your environment: Prepare your background. Ensure it is professional, yet has a bit of character in it as well. Arrive early so that you are able to test out all technology and be there when participants arrive to set the tone and ensure they use a camera if at all possible. Ensure you are dressed appropriately and positioned properly in front of your camera such that you are close enough to be seen.
  • Plan meeting key points and takeaways: For all topics, ensure you are ready to summarize the main points and any follow up items from the meeting. You will likely add to the list during the meeting as well if you succeed in creating an engaging environment.

Use of tools and technology

Improper use of tools and technology can derail any meeting regardless of how prepared you are with your message. Specifically:

  • Use a video conferencing platform like Zoom: We have conducted meetings virtually with screen-sharing tools for some time, but our transition to using Zoom a couple of years ago was a complete game-changer for our meetings. Zoom makes balancing video conferencing and content sharing easy and, unlike previous applications that we used, does so reliably
  • Use webcams: Most people have a webcam integrated into their computers. Use it! If a picture tells a thousand words, video conferencing tells a million. Seeing the faces of participants eliminates the biggest challenge with remote meetings
  • Presentation Software: Many use PowerPoint, we use the Google Apps suite. Highly designed animation can actually be a bit distracting, so this shouldn’t take too much time. Regardless of what you use, ensure you have bullets and visuals as needed to support your message. When you use text, use short snippets of big ideas, and don’t use too much text as you want to deliver the message with your voice.

Engagement Techniques

When I was in college, my Astronomy class (we had to take a lab science!) was a lecture with a couple of hundred students. My literature classes were a lot smaller, which made it a lot easier to create an engaging environment.

There are many ways that you can create an engaging meeting to increase its effectiveness:

  • Proper use of questions: Leveraging different types of questions can be very effective in increasing engagement. Here is a blog that talks to different types of questions. Overhead questions are put out there for anyone to answer and can be challenging to control the group when it is a question that a lot have opinions on. It is also not great when you hear crickets after you ask an overhead question. Direct questions, relay questions, and reverse questions are great in getting your participants to engage.
  • As participants to share ideas or even present a module: Sending out the agenda prior and asking participants to do some homework prior is a great way to get folks prepared to share ideas. If appropriate, delegate topics to others to lead.
  • Use chat, polls, or other tools in your video conferencing platform: Using different tools effectively keeps people engaged. If you can find a good use for a poll in your content, use it! Chat is a great way to gather insight from participants as an alternative to asking overhead questions. The # of participants in the meeting helps you evaluate which might be most effective. Larger meetings may require you to use a “Listen Only” feature and enable users to interact with chat.

Ensuring you are able to facilitate virtual meetings effectively can minimize the impact of our new reality. Put these things into practice to minimize the disruption to your business.

What I’ve Learned About Working From Home a Home Office

What I’ve Learned About Working From Home a Home Office

Last week I was reminiscing about my first home-office job with my former boss, Cary Butler. Back in 1997 when I accepted a position as a district manager for Toshiba, the first step was to set up a home office. I remember when the UPS driver rang my doorbell to deliver a fax machine. That same day, the local phone company dropped in to add three more phone lines to my house—one line to share between my fax and computer modem and the second line for my desk phone.

That began my journey of working at home, along with various hotels and airports!

Over the years, my friends have asked me if I like working at home. As an introvert (INTJ, Enneagram 5) my answer is always a hearty, “Yes!” I get so much more done without the noise and distraction of an office. I think my introvert friends will agree that working from home is a gift.

My friends who are more extraverted usually feel differently. “I could never work at home,” is a common response.

Well, guess what? It appears that most of us will be working from home for the near future. My guess is that after the pandemonium about the pandemic ends, many companies will realize how much money they could save with a remote workforce. The drawbacks of virtual workers will fade into the background and more of us will find ourselves working at home.

Today, I work with a team at Convergo spread across six time zones. All of us work from home offices. Most of this was by necessity as the type of talent we needed didn’t exist in one zip code. So, we built our team based on the best talent, not location. As a result, we spend most of our days using collaboration tools like #Slack and communication tools like Zoom. 

What have I learned? Here are a few things:

1. Make It Feel Like Work

For me, it was important to set up a place in my home that felt like work. This meant dedicating a room to work. However, this room needs to be more than a spare bedroom. I removed the bed and chest of drawers. Then I went down to the office supply store and bought a real desk. Ten years ago, I purchased a full office suite. Today, my office has a huge wrap around desk, conference table, and filing cabinets. While it is a room in my house, it functions as an office.

2. Get Dressed

Home office workers often brag about the ability to work in their PJ’s or gym clothes. While this is sometimes OK, as a habit I make a point to shower, shave, and put on the same type of clothes I’d wear to the office. The ritual of getting dressed tells your mind, “It’s time to go to work.” These days with video conferencing, we must look our best. Just because you’re not physically in someone’s office doesn’t mean you don’t need to dress appropriately.

3. Schedule Your Day

I love productivity hacks. Years ago as a new sales professional I learned the power of blocking time on my calendar for important things like prospecting. 27 years later, I still use time blocking. This is critical for home office workers. My family also knows my schedule. I’m in my office during working hours. It’s great to step out for a break and see my wife, kids, or grandkids. However, they know that when I’m working, I’m to be left alone unless it’s an emergency.

4. Take Breaks

In the office, a common ritual is to grab a cup of coffee or go to lunch. When you work at home, it’s easy to just plow through. The reality is that the human mind works best in bursts of effort followed by a time of recovery. Some of my most productive days are ones where I schedule lunch with someone. Alternatively, as we all try to stay home, you could go for a walk around your neighborhood or spend some time working outside. These breaks are critical.

5. Shut It Down

When I’m done working at the end of the day, I clean up my desk, turn off the lights, and shut the door to my office. Unless I’m working, I don’t go into this room. My home is a place for relaxation, family, and friends. It’s important to me to keep a bit of a firewall between my office and my family. In my previous house, my office was upstairs. My new home has the offices at one end of the house, separate from the rest of the family activity. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone, however, as much as possible, set your office up so you can leave it at the end of the day.

Working from home can be a challenge. However, by taking the steps above, I’ve created an environment that helps maximize my productivity while not interfering with my family.

Fill the Sales Funnel: Capitalizing on Sales and Marketing Trends in 2019

Fill your sales funnel with integrated sales and marketing strategies.

There are only two types of prospects: those who are looking for your products and services, and those who aren’t. If you want to grow sales in 2019, you’ll need to find ways to connect with both groups:

  • Prospects who are actively looking for solutions to their problems need to be able to find your dealership online.
  • Prospects who aren’t actively looking for a solution need to be strategically interrupted by your sales team. (more…)